This comes up over and over again.
I gave you some good advice in this article, Write and Get Paid: How to Keep the Money Rolling In | Angela Booth’s Fab Freelance Writing Blog, and told this story:
“Years ago, an editor had the nerve to tell me: ‘But we’re a six billion dollar company, OF COURSE you’ll get paid!’ Huh — that six billion dollar company had blithely owed me $1800 for four months. Since the editor was disbursing the cash, I had no confidence I’d ever get paid, so I turned (politely) nasty. It didn’t help that on the day I spoke to him, I’d just had dental surgery and was in considerable pain — how much the company was worth was immaterial, and I told him so.”
Here’s what to do to avoid slow paying and no-paying clients.
1. Get paid up front
Times are tough. This means that publications and businesses like to stretch their cash. That’s fine, but make sure that your Terms of Service state when you’ll be paid: “payment is due on delivery of final draft; copyright devolves to your on final payment.”
By “payment up front”, I mean get a deposit. Always, no exceptions. Occasionally a writer will say that clients are hesitant to pay up front. My response to that is simple: “If you enjoy working for free, go ahead.”
Yes, I know that some people say in their advertising for writers: “we don’t pay up front.”
That’s certainly their prerogative.
Your prerogative is to get paid up front.
2. Be polite, always
Always, always, be your charming self. Always.
There’s nothing I need to add to that.
3. No payment? Become the squeakiest wheel
No payment? If your TOS says that you’re paid on delivery of the final draft, send a reminder seven days later. Yes, SEVEN days. Just add a task to your calendar, and send a reminder. Keep sending reminders every seven days, until you get paid.
If you’re just starting out as a freelancer, don’t worry too much about slow payers and no payers. Over the years I’ve worked with many, many businesses and publications, and I can count the times I wasn’t paid on the fingers of one hand.
You won’t come across no-payers often. They’re rare.
What’s more common is writers not charging enough, and burning out.
I beg you, charge appropriately. Here’s why: you’ll get much better clients. Great clients are wary of writers who charge too little. They’re after quality, and they know that you can’t create quality material if you’re charging a pittance.